Dr Rajinder K Singla, RTI activist : Believe it or not, but according to the latest information supplied by Panjab University under ‘Right to Information’ , no Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) has been conferred upon the Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh since 1949 till date. Contrarily however, going by the media reports and the information supplied earlier under RTI, this University had hosted a Special Convocation on 3 November 2009 to award a single degree, i.e. Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), to Dr Manmohan Singh incurring huge public money for the event. The Registration Branch of PU has disclosed (copy attached) that a total of 74 honoris causa doctorate degrees have been awarded by this University in the field of Laws, Literature, Science and Oriental Learning since 1949 till February 2011. But as per the data supplied, no individual has so far been awarded twice with such honorary degrees. Accordingly, Dr Manmohan Singh has been awarded with only D.Litt. on 12.03.1983 but not any Doctor of Laws.
Information disclosed under RTI reveals that Panjab University has so far awarded Doctor of Laws to 25 persons including, among others, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1949), Dr Mehar Chand Mahajan (1949), His Highness Maharaja Yadvendra Singh (1951), Dr Gurdial Singh Dhillon (1969), Smt Indira Gandhi (1973), Dr Jagan Nath Kaushal (1983), Sh. Inder Kumar Gujral (1999), Mr Herb Dhaliwal (2001), Sh. Kapil Sibal (2006) and Sh. Som Nath Chatterjee (2011).
The moot question remains – Where has that Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) gone that had been conferred upon Dr Manmohan Singh on 3 November 2011 at the Special Convocation hosted in his honour at the PU campus? Has it been cancelled or is confidential, not disclosable to the public via RTI.
Panjab University Act, 1947 provides in its Section-24 the circumstances and the procedure to be adopted for the cancellation of degree, diploma, licence, title or mark of honour awarded by this University. When the awardee is convicted of a serious offence, such a proposal of the Syndicate duly accepted by 2/3rd majority of the Senators and subsequently confirmed by the Chancellor leads to cancellation of the degrees. Dr Singla will now seek truth about status of the said Degree from the office of the PU Chancellor & Vice-President of India, Dr Mohd Hamid Ansari.
Surprisingly enough, the detailed profile of Dr Manmohan Singh posted by the Government of India on its website www.india.gov.in also refers to only one ‘Doctor of Laws’ conferred upon him by the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, 2010 but does not make a mention of any ‘Doctor of Laws’ of Panjab University.
Honorary degrees are awarded by this University under Section-23 of the PU Act, 1947 to persons with eminent position and attainments without requiring them to undergo any examination after recommendation of the Vice-Chancellor and 2/3rd of Syndics, approval by 2/3rd majority of Senators and confirmation by the Chancellor. Obviously, honoring distinguished individuals for their achievements should be a matter of proud for everyone and need not be kept in the hiding.
Sources disclose that in 1989, the then PU Vice-Chancellor Professor RP Bambah had placed before the Syndicate an item of awarding ‘Professor Emeritus’ to Dr Manmohan Singh (an alumnus of PU), but due to opposition on the ground that Dr Singh excelled in bureaucracy but not in academics, the item had to be withdrawn and nothing was recorded in the proceedings. Academic recognition to him came only later in 2009 when a Chair in Economics Department was established by this University in his name – probably the only Chair in the history of this University which has been established in the name of a person during his lifetime whereas such Chairs are usually established posthumously.
The possibility of providing wrong/incomplete information on the issue of honoris causa degrees also cannot be ruled out in view of the fact that providing false, incomplete, misleading and vague replies has become a part and parcel of the public authority called Panjab University, which otherwise has an RTI Cell duly supported by around 90 public information officers. Under such situations, Dr Singla questions – if PU maintains no proper record of honoris causa degrees less than 100 in number (1949-2011) and awarded to only distinguished personalities, how does it prevent pilferage and maintain proper records of millions of degrees awarded so far through the examination system?